I used to hate the saying, “comfort food.” It is an overused term on a local TV show in Boston, given to just about any dish that appears to be high in fat and calories. Why not just call it food made by a person who could care less what you put in your mouth or do after you eat your weekly calorie allowance? That’s what it is, right?

When I wasn’t feeling well before the marathon, I wanted foods I used to enjoy as a kid that were simple and tasted good. I quickly realized, I was craving my version of comfort food, something that makes me feel better and not just a calorie/fat bomb explosion. Bagels with butter, soup, pasta, and pizza, I had the appetite of a child or as roomie informed me, “a normal person”. I didn’t want foods that were necessarily unhealthy, but foods specifically I ate growing up. Those were comforting and made me feel better.

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One of my cravings was for mac and cheese. As you know, I do not eat a ton of cheese so I was hoping I could make a vegan version using what I had on hand. I came up with a delicious dish that I just had to share with you guys because it was so good. I can’t wait to make this during the holidays for family gatherings. It is a perfect vegan cheesy alternative to dress up those vegetables, especially if you have dairy free folks in the family.

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I used GO Veggie! Dairy Free Cream Cheese Alternative and nutritional yeast to get a cheesy flavor with 4x more calcium,  fewer calories, and zero cholesterol. It made mainly from coconut oil and non-GMO ingredients. Your guests will have no idea the cheese sauce is dairy, and lactose free. The cream cheese alternative also tastes great on bagels by itself!

Vegan Cauliflower Mac & Cheese (Makes 4-6 side servings)

Ingredients:

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  • 1 Large Cauliflower, or two small
  • 1/2 cup Quinoa, uncooked or Macaroni pasta
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/2 cup GO Veggie! Dairy Free Cream Cheese Alternative
  • 1/2 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 2 tbsp Chives, chopped
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice, about 1/2 small
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Optional Topping: Panko crumbs or day old baguette chopped up into croutons – leave off topping if eating a Paleo or gluten free diet.

Directions:

1. Start by boiling a pot of water. Break apart the cauliflower and put into the pot of boiling water. Let cook for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Divide in half, placing 1/2 in a blender or bowl, the other off to the side.

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2. Rinse quinoa and cook according to package. You can substitute this for a more traditional dish and use pasta elbows. Pre heat oven to 350F.

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3. Combine olive oil, nutritional yeast, GO Veggie! cream cheese, garlic power, Dijon mustard, chives, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the blender or bowl with the cauliflower. If using a blender, mix well until mixture is smooth throughout. If using a bowl, you can also use a hand mixer or immersion blender. Your cheese sauce will not be as creamy but it will still taste delicious. The above picture is using my hand mixer, and below if after my blender.

Add more salt and pepper to taste once mixture is combined. The chives give it a slight green tint.

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4. Combine the still intact cooked cauliflower, quinoa or elbows and cheese sauce. Place into a 9×9 pan evenly. I did not have a 9×9 but also made a smaller serving size for the pictures.

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5. Top with a crispy topping of your choice. I used homemade croutons by cutting up day old bread. If you eat a gluten free diet, you can omit this part of add your favorite gluten free topping. Another option is to add panko or bread crumbs.

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6. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

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Disclaimer: While I am a huge fan of GO Veggie! products, I am also a brand ambassador for 2014! All thoughts, opinions and ideas expressed are my own.

Vegan Cauliflower “Mac & Cheese”

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